Spaceflight Insider

UPDATE: Iridium-5 launch postponed to March 30

An artist's rendering of an Iridium NEXT satellite in orbit above Earth. Image Credit: Iridium

An artist’s rendering of an Iridium NEXT satellite in orbit above Earth. Image Credit: Iridium

Due to an issue with one of the 10 Iridium NEXT satellites bound for space atop the next Falcon 9 launch from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the Iridium-5 flight has been delayed.

Matt Desch, CEO of Iridium Communications, tweeted that the company was having an issue with one of the 10 satellites in preparation for the Iridium-5 mission. He said the suppler and launch team will be resetting for a launch no earlier than March 31, 2018, with the potential to shift into next week if the issue is not resolved quickly enough. The mission had been scheduled for the morning of March 29.

However, some six hours later, Desch tweeted again saying that a technical solution was found and the satellite and Falcon 9 rocket were ready to go. He said it was a ground harness test cable issue and it was now fixed.

According to an update on the company’s website, the Iridium-5 mission and its 10 Iridium NEXT satellites will launch at 7:14 a.m. PDT (10:14 a.m. EDT / 14:14 GMT) March 30.

For this flight, SpaceX will utilize a previously-flown Falcon 9 first stage. It will be the same one that took the 10 satellites into space on the Iridium-3 mission in October 2007. The Hawthorne, California-based launch service provider performed its customary static fire test on the stage around 7 a.m. PDT (10 a.m. EDT / 14:00 GMT) March 25, firing all nine Merlin 1D engines for several seconds to ensure they are all working properly.

All of the Iridium NEXT satellites have launched atop Falcon 9 rockets out of Vandenberg Air Force Base. The total constellation will consist of 66 active satellites and 9 on orbit spares. Iridium Communications is replacing an older constellation and adding additional services for its customers. To complete the new constellation, four more Falcon 9 flights are required, including Iridium-5.

This story was updated at 10:15 a.m. EDT (14:14 GMT) to reflect the resolution to the previously reported technical problem and the mission’s new launch date and time.




Lloyd Campbell’s first interest in space began when he was a very young boy in the 1960s with NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs. That passion continued in the early 1970s with our continued exploration of our Moon, and was renewed by the Shuttle Program. Having attended the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on its final two missions, STS-131, and STS-133, he began to do more social networking on space and that developed into writing more in-depth articles. Since then he’s attended the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, the agency’s new crew-rated Orion spacecraft on Exploration Flight Test 1, and multiple other uncrewed launches. In addition to writing, Lloyd has also been doing more photography of launches and aviation. He enjoys all aspects of space exploration, both human, and robotic, but his primary passions lie with human exploration and the vehicles, rockets, and other technologies that allow humanity to explore space.

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